Garth Snow said he’s always open to adding people to the Islanders’ front-office staff and that he understands the “bullets and arrows” are flying his way after his team failed to make the playoffs for the seventh time in his 11 seasons as general manager.
What he did not sound like on Wednesday’s conference call that introduced Doug Weight as the new head coach is a person unsure of his role. Snow still is the president and general manager, and with his close friend Weight getting the coaching gig full time, it appears Islanders owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are comfortable with Snow holding the reins for the time being.
This is an important time for the Islanders. Naming a coach was just one of many issues to address this offseason: The team is still looking for a permanent home, there is an expansion draft coming in two months and John Tavares, the team’s lone star, needs a contract extension as he enters the final year of his current deal.
“It goes back to being a player: You can only control what you can control as a player, a coach, a manager,” Snow said. “You put your head down and do your job. When there’s success and the team wins, everything’s great. When the team loses, there’s going to be bullets and arrows flying. Like a goaltender when I played, [as a GM] you probably get too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose. It’s what I signed up for. It’s a situation anyone in pro sports understands, it’s part of the package.”
One of the bigger issues with the Islanders this season was Snow holding on to three goaltenders for the first three months before waiving Jaroslav Halak, who remained in Bridgeport until late March when he came back up and had a huge role in the team’s late surge.
Snow didn’t think it was a mistake to have Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube on the roster that long. “No, not really,” he said. “I thought our goaltending struggled the first 10 weeks of the season. We had an injury in Bridgeport with Christopher Gibson, who missed almost the whole season. We only had three NHL-ready goaltenders. There was a fear if we put J-F on waivers, we were confident he would’ve been picked up. We would’ve been left with Jaro and Thomas Greiss and two very young goaltenders. That injury figured into some of our decision making. Sometimes people don’t realize injuries at the AHL level impact decisions up here.”
Malkin and Ledecky have not ceased their search for a president of hockey operations, but Wednesday’s announcement would appear to mean any new hire will not have complete control of the team. Usually such a role would allow a president to choose his own GM and his own coach.
Snow, whom Newsday reported has upward of five years left on a deal he signed with previous owner Charles Wang, does not sound as if he’s waiting for a new boss to sign off on any offseason moves he may make.
“First and foremost, we’re very confident in the group we have,” Snow said. “That said, there are always changes to a team. Doug and I will get to work today to start to plan for the expansion draft, plan for roster improvements and the NHL draft.”
Tavares is the linchpin to it all. Snow, Malkin and Ledecky have had numerous meetings with Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent, throughout this season. Informal extension talks likely will begin in June and Tavares can sign any time after July 1.
If Brisson indicates Tavares would not be interested in signing, Snow likely would gauge trade interest around the June 23-24 NHL Draft.
“John’s been here since he was 18 and he’s obviously the face of our team,” Snow said. “He knows how we feel about him, how much respect we have for him as a player and a person. We can’t say enough good things about him. We’re going to give it our best shot to get him signed.”